Do you believe the Rapture is coming? What if the rest of your family doesn't?

Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockWhat happens when a family is divided by belief? The Haddad family of Middletown, Maryland, is one of many whose faith will be tested tomorrow: The parents whole-heartedly believe that they will be taken up on Saturday, May 21, as part of the Rapture foretold in the Bible. But their three teenagers don't.

"My mom has told me directly that I'm not going to get into heaven," Grace Haddad, 16, told The New York Times. "At first it was really upsetting, but it's what she honestly believes."

Two years ago, Grace's mother, Abby Haddad Carson, quit her job as a nurse in order to dedicate herself to missionary work with her husband, Robert Carson (who kept his job as an engineer for the federal Energy Department). They stopped fixing up their house and stopped saving for their teenagers' college educations, instead putting all of their effort into telling people that the end of the world is coming.

"People look at my family and think I'm like that," said 14-year-old Joseph Haddad. "I don't really have any motivation to try to figure out what I want to do anymore, because my main support line, my parents, don't care."

Their mom admits to having mixed feelings about her impending salvation. "I'm very excited about the Lord's return, but I'm fearful that my children might get left behind," she told the New York Times. "But you have to accept God's will."

Is it God's will, though? Or is it Harold Camping's?

According to the Bible, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36, New International Version). But according to Camping, a 89-year-old civil engineer turned Biblical scholar and Christian radio host, the beginning of the end will come on Saturday, May 21, 2011, with earthquakes starting at precisely 6 p.m. East Coast Time.

Camping's calculations are complex and, some (obviously non-believers) say, totally arbitrary. He began by studying the Bible and concluding that the number 5 represents atonement, 10 is for completeness, and 17 stands for heaven. He looked at the time frame for Noah and the Ark, and decided the apocalypse would come 7,000 years after that flood. Then he started crunching the numbers.

He showed his math in an interview to last year:
"Christ hung on the cross April 1, 33 A.D.," he began. "Now go to April 1 of 2011 A.D., and that's 1,978 years."

Camping then multiplied 1,978 by 365.2422 days - the number of days in each solar year, not to be confused with a calendar year.

Next, Camping noted that April 1 to May 21 encompasses 51 days. Add 51 to the sum of previous multiplication total, and it equals 722,500.

Camping realized that (5 x 10 x 17) x (5 x 10 x 17) = 722,500.

Or put into words: (Atonement x Completeness x Heaven), squared.

"Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story," Camping said. "It's the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you're completely saved.

The date for the Rapture has been set at least 67 other times before; Camping himself previously predicted that it would take place on September 6, 1994. It didn't-he says he may have made a mathematical error, that time-but his followers don't seem to mind, even if their non-believing family members do.

Having family members who don't believe that the Rapture starts tomorrow is God's way of testing whether you truly believe or not, explained Kevin Brown, who represents Camping's Family Radio empire. Gary Daniels, 27, accepts this, and earlier this week drove his van, which is covered in Judgement Day messages, from his home in Delaware all the way to Brooklyn, New York, to say goodbye to family members. "I know I'm not going to see them again, but they are very certain they are going to see me, and that's where I feel so sad," he confided.

He plans to spend Saturday glued to his TV, he told the New York Times, "waiting for the Resurrection and earthquake from nation to nation."

But Saturday came and went, with nary a soul taken up (and no zombie apocalypse, either). Christian radio show host Harold Camping is zero for two now on guessing the date of the Rapture, but that hasn't stopped him from issuing another prediction. Now, he says, it's going to take place in October. October 21st, in fact.

Apparently, May 21 turned out to be "an invisible judgement day"-a spiritual one, rather than a day filled with earthquakes and people physically ascending to heaven, he says. And, instead of five months of hell on earth, Camping says, the world as we know will end in one fell swoop five months from now.

"It has been a really tough weekend," Camping, 89, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, adding that he was "flabbergasted" that he and his followers hadn't been taken up and was "looking for answers."

"I can tell you very candidly that when May 21 came and went it was a very difficult time for me, a very difficult time," The New York Times reported that Camping said on his radio show. "I was truly wondering what is going on. In my mind, I went back through all of the promises God has made, all of the proofs, all of the signs and everything was fitting perfectly, so what in the world happened? I really was praying and praying and praying, oh Lord, what happened?"

Also on Shine: